Are We All Just Whiners?
March 30th, 2010

Golden Temple Complex - Amritsar, India

Golden Temple Complex - Amritsar, India

Yesterday the New York Times published an article ( on the “Shrinking Path” for photographers. In the 24 hours or so since then photographers have reposted this article on facebook and twitter and with it, usually, a comment about how amateurs are ruining business for professionals by undercharging or, gasp, giving away their photographs. Bollocks!

It is definitely true that professional photography is changing. What worked in 1990 probably doesn’t work in 2010. But is that really a shocker? Did we just wake up this morning and discover that while we slept the world had changed? I don’t think so.

Last year the uproar was over a Time cover for which an amateur photographer was giddy to receive $30. Professional photographers cried foul. Amateurs were stealing business. As I recall that was a shot of a glass jar full of coins. I don’t know. I’ve never shot a glass jar full of coins. Sounds boring. Had I done so, I’m not sure that I’d have valued it at much more than $30. I say kudos to Time for getting what they wanted for just $30. It’s a boring shot, but it’s a boring magazine. (I’m probably not supposed to say that, am I? To be 100% honest, I don’t know that it’s boring. I don’t think I’ve seen Time in a decade. I probably hadn’t even heard of it in years until this uproar. Other than putting cheap stock photos on their cover, I have no idea what they’re currently doing.)

Anyhow, back to yesterday’s article. One of the highlights is that the amateur used “a $99…digital camera”. Oh, well, in that case the images clearly stink, right? Just like that Judge Brown who belittled a photographer for not having “professional gear”. (I think that’s the judges name.)

Let’s just stop all the whining. We’re not losing business to amateurs. If we’re losing business it’s because of a lack of insight, flexibility and willingness to abandon a model that worked well in 1990. If we were professional only because our cameras cost a lot and film took time, well, we were really just amateurs ourselves.

11 Responses to “Are We All Just Whiners?”

  1. I just read the article myself, and it follows close on another recent industry interview w/ Jim Pickerell. I also recently made a post on my own blog that pointed to the dramatic changes that were taking place in the industry, and the great uncertainty photographers faced with regards to their future.


    The quote I found was from 1999.

    It’ll be very interesting to see where the ‘brave new world’ takes us over the next ten years.


  2. marcus says:

    I find it ironic how photographers wail about amateurs killing the industry, on their blogs, which they write for free, and are directly responsible for the decline in the print industry.

  3. I think there has always been a need for the “good” photographers to stand out from the crowd and to prove that they are worth more than the amateurs. This may be more true today than ever before, but it’s certainly not new. If you want to be paid more, you better show that you’re worth it.

  4. Technology advances steadily along regardless of who is affected. I’ve seen lots of whining everywhere but technology and the marketplace of supply and demand do not care about feelings and opinions. I’d just as soon get into traditional stock photography today as get into the typewriter sales industry 30 years ago!


  5. Crystal B says:

    The digital revolution in photography has just changed the way the game is played, and I call it a game simply because that’s sort of how it is. It has made it much more easy for anyone who had an itch to get a decent camera, and follow a dream that was once not so accessible. It has, however, also made it for those who were living that dream, a lot more challenging to stay at the top of the game.

    The question is, are they going to quit whining about it, and show the world why they are at the top, or let the dreamers continue to chase them, and catch up?

    @Marcus, my better half is a published author, this same debate of whining that is going around in the photography world, is going around in the writers realm as well, they are having it harder I think. Blogs are free, and anyone with a blog is a writer now, getting book deals, tours, trips to Oprah, etc. Cameras however good, still cost money.

    It’s a tough world out there. We can run with it, or complain about it. It’s all a choice we make individually.

  6. Well stated.

    The nyt beclowns itself on a nearly daily basis. I found this article to be full of holes, omissions and errors (stock is not the same as microcrapstock. It just isn’t). Add to that the insult of having a guy who sells images for $3 tell us about how that is a good business model is beyond laughable.

    The nyt is very invested in driving content pricing down, so they can take advantage (yeah… the nyt has been known to do that, ya know) so color me unimpressed and totally annoyed with that article.

    Are there challenges? Yes. Should we all quit ant let the kittyshootersfromflickr shoot it all? No… we should…

    wait… uh, yeah… on second thought, it would eliminate a lot of my competition if they quit… hmmm…

    Yeah… the nyt is right. All is lost. Send your cameras (especially that lovely D700) to me for disposal.

    yeah… that’s the ticket.

  7. Great post, Jeffrey! I think the NYT article is skewed…sort of glass is way less than full! Yes, it can be tough out there, but those that are good at their craft and who persist, no matter the competition, will win out! Talent does matter…whining not so much!

  8. Trudy says:

    Great article. You’re right. I also found Marcus’ comment to be really interesting.

  9. I think the rise of the amateur so to speak is great. All it serves to do is encourage everyone to become more creative and create more compelling work, which is surely the goal of an artist in any field. Get creative, stand out, reap rewards. Or am I just an optimist? :)

  10. Competition is healthy, most of the time. It is not amateur vs professional to my eye. There are a growing number of nonpros now who shoot as good or better than pros often because they don’t have the time or financial constraints = more artistic freedom.

    If the anyone is worried about the competition, then that better stimulate them to improve or perish. Isn’t that what evolution is all about?

    Stop whining, work harder for a better product and succeed. Works for me every day.


  11. Your last paragraph nails it….very nice read.

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